There’s a goofy Purim song from the Talmud that Jews like to sing around this time, “Mishenichnas Adar marbim b’simchah! When the month of Adar arrives we increase in the things that bring us joy." What can Purim teach us about increasing the joy in our lives?
Here are the four main mitzvot of Purim:
1.Megillah - To hear the public chanting of the scroll of Esther, the story of Purim. We bond with each other as we dress up in character and re-experience the fear of annihilation in exile. Together we shout down the evil bully “Haman” (booooo!)
2.Shalach Manot –The story ends happily for the Jews who “enjoyed light and gladness, happiness and honor.” Mordechai decrees that every year on Purim, Jews are to make and deliver portions of ready to eat meals and treats to each other to increase this joy.
3.Matanot L’evyonim – Mordechai also decreed that we give gifts to the poor so that they can share equally in the joy of Purim. And we can experience the joy of giving.
4.Purim Seudah – We reenact the fast of Esther the day before Purim and then feast on Purim afternoon. We do this to reenact the climax of the story, when Esther tells the king that she is Jewish and Haman is plotting to kill her people. It took much eating and drinking for Esther to successfully turn Haman’s evil plan on its head. Purim feasting, singing and drinking to excess with fellow Jews is a serious mitzvah. Only after having fulfilled the first three mitzvoth of Purim, are we feeling fulfilled enough to experience the highest level of simcha/joy.
If you are feeling stuck in the bitter end of winter, join us at Torat Yisrael to increase the true simcha/joy in your life and invite your friends and family to join you to increase the joy further. Saturday night we will chant megillah over wine and a sumptuous festive meal. Come in costume to increase your ability to “shake your sillies out.” Then you can grab the mic and do some karaoke to entertain and amuse your fellow congregants (I call first dibs on Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long”!). On Sunday morning, all are invited to come and hear portions of the megillah with the Cohen school kids. At the carnival there will be shalach manot making, opportunities for giving to the poor (please bring food or clothing items to donate). This year we decided to honor Leonard Sholes of blessed memory who so loved having visitors bring shalach manot to him on Purim. His love for this mitzvah inspired us to call it the annual “Leonard J. Sholes Shalach Manot Project.”
On Purim “the Jews enjoyed light and gladness, happiness and honor” as we say in the Havdalah service at the end of Shabbat “kein tihyeh lanu,” “So may it be for us too…”
Purim Same’ach – May our joy begin to increase starting today!
Rabbi Aaron Philmus
Rabbi Aaron brings a traditional style and approach of prayer to the conservative synagogue. He has a background in ecology and Jewish education and teaches Torah through agriculture and wilderness skills, and plays guitar as a way to bring music to the synagogue. He’s a naturalist who believes that everything stems from nature, and he understands the plight of others who are less fortunate, and how to use the land to enrich ourselves.